Many people look forward to retirement as a time to travel, garden, play golf, or visit their grandchildren. Others have no definite plans beyond a vague idea about “relaxing.” When they leave work, they sometimes find themselves feeling a bit lost, not sure what to do with themselves without a job to go to every day.
If you’re still not sure how you want to spend your retirement, here’s one option you may not have considered: Take advantage of your golden years to go back to school.
Many colleges across the country offer cheap or even free classes for senior citizens. In most cases, older students only get to “audit” these classes – that is, attend the lectures without earning credit toward a degree. However, even without the credit, it’s still a great opportunity to learn about a subject that interests you at no cost to yourself. And at some schools, it’s even possible to earn a college degree for free, one class at a time.
Here is a look at some of the many opportunities you can find across the country.
Some states encourage senior citizens to go back to school by guaranteeing them free or discounted classes at any public college or university in the state. The details – such as cost, how many classes you can take this way, and how old you must be to take advantage of the program – vary from state to state.
All University of Alaska campuses waive tuition costs for senior citizens. Rather than define “senior citizen” based on a specific age, the university offers the waiver to anyone who’s old enough to receive full benefits from Social Security. For instance, if you were born in 1950, you’d be eligible at age 66, which means you qualify for the program now. However, if you were born in 1960, you won’t be eligible until you reach age 67 in the year 2027.
Like most free tuition programs, the university’s program offers classes to non-paying seniors on a “space-available basis” after all full-paying students have had a chance to sign up. The program does not cover extra costs, such as lab fees.
In Arkansas, a 1975 law called Act 678 allows all citizens at least 60 years old to enroll at any state-supported institution free of charge. These older students are allowed to attend classes on a space-available basis. Arkansas seniors can take as many free classes as they need to earn a degree. To take advantage of this program, contact the financial aid office at any community college or state university.
A 1974 law in Connecticut waives tuition costs at public colleges for senior citizens. Under this rule, seniors age 62 and older can enroll in any “degree program” at a state university or community college without paying for tuition. The law also gives seniors the right to take non-credit classes for free on a space-available basis.
Although tuition is free for these older students, state colleges and universities can charge them university or activity fees. To find out the details about costs and availability at a particular college, contact the registration office.
Under Delaware’s Title 14, three public institutions – the University of Delaware, Delaware State University, and Delaware Technical and Community College – are all required to waive tuition and “related fees” for state citizens at least 60 years old. However, the program has a few limitations:
- It’s only open to students who are “formal degree candidates.”
- Classes are offered on a space-available basis.
- Students must meet the requirements for admission to a particular class – for instance, classes that are only open to majors in a certain subject.
- Students must also pay for books, supplies, lab fees, and shop fees out of their own pockets.
Section 1009.16 of Florida’s K-20 Education Code requires all state universities to waive tuition and fees for students over 60 taking any class that’s normally offered for credit. However, these non-paying students do not earn credit, and paying students get first priority for space in any given class. Contact any public college or university in the state to apply.
The free college program for seniors in Georgia is actually mentioned in the state’s constitution. It gives state universities the authority to set up tuition-free classes and also says the General Assembly can pass a law to create a similar program “for the benefit of elderly citizens of the state.”
According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, all of the state’s 31 public colleges and universities now offer free classes for residents age 62 and older. Seniors can audit classes or take them for credit, but either way, they must apply through the school’s regular admissions process, even if they already have a college degree.
Senior students don’t have to pay tuition, but at some schools, they must pay fees such as application, lab, and campus parking permit fees. They are also responsible for the costs of books and supplies. As in other states, they must wait to register until paying students have signed up.
In Illinois, the Senior Citizen Courses Act gives some senior citizens the right to attend regular credit courses for free at any state university or community college. However, unlike many state programs that offer free classes to anyone over a certain age, this law applies only to people age 65 or older whose income is below a certain level. This threshold is set at twice the federal poverty level, according to the financial aid office at the University of Illinois Springfield.
Under the law, the state’s nine public universities, as well as public community colleges, cannot charge tuition to senior citizens who meet these requirements. However, these schools are still allowed to charge student fees, lab fees, and other fees to older students.
A state law in Indiana, IC 21-14-5, requires all state colleges and universities to offer senior citizens classes at half the regular price on a space-available basis. The program is open to state residents who are at least age 60 and have completed high school. The law also establishes a special tuition fund that uses public money to reimburse colleges for their costs from this program.
Under this program, senior citizens can take up to nine credit hours of reduced-price classes each semester. It’s up to the individual schools whether to waive other fees, such as application or lab fees. Senior students can earn credit toward a degree under this program, but only if they meet the admission standards of the college where they’re taking classes.
According to a 2017 article in The Mercury of Manhattan, Kansas, state residents age 60 and older can audit classes free of charge at all Regents colleges and universities in the state. Seniors auditing classes do not pay tuition or fees, but they must have permission from the professor teaching the course. They must also wait to make sure space is available.
The registration process for non-paying senior students varies from college to college. Some, such as Washburn University, require senior auditors to apply for admission as a non-degree-seeking student. To find out the process for the college you’re interested in, contact the registrar’s office.
Kentucky state law 164.284 waives tuition and fees at all state-supported colleges for students age 65 and older. However, full-paying students get first priority for class space. Also, there’s nothing in the state law that specifies colleges must award course credit to non-paying senior citizens.
Under Louisiana state law, all public colleges and universities must provide free tuition to students age 55 and older. In addition, these students get 50% off the price of books and other classroom materials at official campus bookstores. The state maintains a fund similar to Indiana’s to reimburse colleges for the cost of this program.
Residents of Maine who are at least 65 years old can take undergraduate classes at any college in the University of Maine System tuition-free. Seniors can either audit classes or take them for credit, but only if space is available.
Tuition is free in the University of Maryland System for students who are at least 60 years old and retired. That doesn’t mean they can’t have a job, but they can’t be working full-time, and the bulk of their income must come from retirement benefits.
This program applies to both undergraduate and graduate courses. Senior citizens are permitted to enroll in degree-granting programs for free, as long as they meet the admission requirements. They also gain use of the campus libraries and any “other privileges” allowed by the individual school.
The Massachusetts Department of Higher Education grants a “categorical tuition waiver” to state residents age 60 and up, as well as veterans, active members of the military, Native Americans, and blind and disabled residents. The value of this waiver is typically between 10% and 15% of the full cost of tuition, but the exact amount varies by school. The Office of Student Financial Assistance has a complete list of state schools and their current tuition waivers.
Students are allowed to receive both a categorical tuition waiver and need-based financial aid if they qualify. However, the value of the two put together can’t be more than the total cost of tuition.
To qualify for this program, students must:
- Be legal permanent residents of the state for at least one year
- Be registered for the draft, if required
- Have no federal or state student loans that are currently in default
- Take at least three undergraduate credits per semester at a state-sponsored undergraduate degree or certificate program
- Get acceptable grades “in accordance with institutional and federal standards”
Senior citizens in the state of Minnesota are allowed to take classes for a reduced rate at any state-supported college or university. The exact fees for this program vary by school. For instance, at the University of Minnesota, seniors can audit classes for free, but taking a class for credit costs $10 per credit.
To qualify for this program, you must be at least 62 years old before the start of the term you’re enrolling for. However, if you have a railroad retirement annuity, you can qualify for the program at age 60. You must provide ID to prove your age, your railroad retirement annuity, or both when you register.
Missouri state law 173.091 guarantees all state residents age 65 and older the right to free tuition at any state college or university. These students can take classes only on a non-credit basis and only as space is available. Schools can also charge them a registration fee of up to $25 per semester.
To take advantage of this law, you must:
- Provide proof of your age
- Meet all prerequisites for the classes you’re taking
- Meet all other entrance requirements at the school of your choice
All colleges within the Montana State University System offer tuition waivers for in-state residents age 65 and up. This waiver covers the cost of tuition only, not registration or campus fees. To qualify, you must apply by the third week of the term and provide proof of age.
In New Mexico, the Senior Citizen Reduced Tuition Act of 1984 requires every degree-granting public college and university in the state to offer tuition to senior citizens at a reduced cost. State residents age 65 and older can either audit classes or take them for credit for only $5 per credit hour, up to a maximum of six credit hours per semester. Classes are offered on a space-available basis, and students are responsible for any course fees.
According to the website of Binghamton University, New York state law grants all state residents age 60 and older the right to audit classes at “state-affiliated campuses” without paying for tuition. However, the schools can charge registration and other fees. Within the City University of New York (CUNY) system, the Senior Citizen Audit Program allows seniors to audit undergraduate classes for $80 per semester, as explained on the website of Brooklyn College.
Some CUNY campuses also have a separate Senior Citizen Waiver program, which gives seniors a discount on classes taken for credit. For instance, at City College of New York, senior citizens pay $25 less for any course costing $99 or more, not counting computer courses. Like the audit program, it’s open to New York state residents age 60 and up.
Schools in the State University of New York (SUNY) system also set their own rules and fees for seniors wishing to audit a class. Binghamton University appears to charge no fees, while Stony Brook University charges a $50 audit fee. At SUNY Purchase, senior auditors are limited to two courses per semester, while Binghamton allows seniors to audit any class that has space available. If you want to audit classes at a SUNY campus, contact the specific school for details about its program.
A state law in North Carolina, Chapter 115B, Section 10.1(a), allows seniors age 65 and up to audit classes for free at community colleges and at all University of North Carolina campuses. The law specifies that space must be available in the class and there must be “no cost to the state.” Some universities charge an application fee for seniors auditing classes, while others waive it.
A separate law passed in 2013, the Restore Senior Citizen CC Tuition Waiver, waives tuition at community colleges for seniors taking for-credit classes as well. Under that law, residents of North Carolina who are at least 65 years old can take up to six hours of instruction for credit, plus one course not for credit, each semester. The law establishes a fund to reimburse colleges for their costs.
Under Ohio state law 3345.27, state residents age 60 and up can audit classes at state colleges and universities free of charge. However, these students are still responsible for fees, such as lab fees, attached to a particular course. Non-paying students can only sign up for classes if space is available.
In Rhode Island, the Board of Governors for Higher Education grants tuition waivers at public colleges and universities for senior citizens age 60 and up, as well as disabled veterans and members of the National Guard. However, these waivers are limited to lower-income seniors. To apply for one, you must provide proof of both your age and your income.
For instance, at the Community College of Rhode Island, you must submit three documents along with your application for admission:
- Proof that you’re at least 60 years old
- Tax forms to prove your income
- A Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) or printed confirmation that you have submitted one online
South Carolina state law Title 59, Chapter 111, Article 5 grants free tuition for both credit and non-credit classes to residents age 60 and older. The law applies to all “state-supported colleges and universities.” Seniors must meet the admission requirements for the school, and classes are offered on a space-available basis. Students are responsible for the cost of textbooks, lab fees, and any other fees for a particular course.
Residents age 65 and older can take classes at any public university in South Dakota for 65% of the normal cost. This discounted rate applies only to tuition, not to fees of any kind. It’s available for both undergraduate and graduate courses that “entail face-to-face instruction provided on a main university campus.” Distance learning classes and classes at off-campus locations are not covered.
Seniors interested in this program don’t need to submit a separate application for it. They can simply apply for admission at the school of their choice, and the school will automatically check to see if they’re eligible for the discount.
Tennessee state law 49-7-113 gives residents age 65 and older the right to take courses for credit at any state-supported college or university without paying tuition, maintenance fees, student activity fees, or registration fees. The only fee the college can charge them is a record-keeping fee of up to $45 per quarter or $70 per semester. Unlike many states, Tennessee does not require you to be 65 years old before the start of the semester when you take your class. If you turn 65 during the quarter or semester when you take the class, that’s good enough.
Utah state law 53B-9-101 requires all state colleges and universities to allow residents age 62 and older to attend classes for free on a space-available basis. The school cannot charge these students tuition or other fees, with the exception of a quarterly registration fee. For instance, at the University of Utah, seniors can audit regular university classes for a fee of $25 per semester.
Students age 65 and older can audit one class in the Vermont State College System each semester without paying tuition. However, they are still responsible for covering any fees associated with the class.
On top of that, seniors can take additional undergraduate courses for credit at half the normal price, as long as they don’t displace paying students from any class. It’s possible for senior citizens to complete an undergraduate degree or certificate this way, taking 50% off the tuition for each class.
In Virginia, the Senior Citizens Higher Education Act of 1974 requires all colleges in the state to allow senior citizens to audit up to six classes per semester – including up to three for-credit classes and three not-for-credit classes – free of charge.
In addition, seniors with a taxable income of $23,850 or less can take classes for credit without paying tuition or fees, except for lab fees and other materials required for a course. The law applies to people at least 60 years old who have lived in Virginia for at least one year.
West Virginia Code 18B-10-7a requires all public colleges in the state to offer classes to state residents age 65 and up at a reduced rate. This rule applies to all types of classes: traditional classroom-based learning, distance learning, and online courses.
Each school in the state can design its own program, but it must include a way for seniors to take classes both for credit and not for credit on a space-available basis. For non-credit classes, schools can’t charge more than $50 tuition, along with any fees such as lab fees and campus parking costs. Students taking classes for credit can’t be charged more than 50% of the normal tuition rate.
Programs at Specific Colleges
As you can see from the list above, only about half the states in the country have a statewide law or program guaranteeing free or discounted classes for seniors. However, every state – even ones that don’t have this kind of law – has at least one college or university where senior citizens can take classes at a reduced cost. On top of that, some colleges in states that do have a statewide program offer discounts above and beyond those required by law.
Here’s an overview of colleges across the country that provide special deals for seniors.
Many community colleges in Alabama take part in the Senior Adult Scholarship Program, which waives the cost of tuition, though not books and fees, for state residents age 60 and up. They include:
- Bishop State
- Coastal Alabama Community College
- Enterprise State
- Gadsden State
- Jefferson State
- Lurleen B. Wallace Community College
- Northeast Alabama Community College
- Northwest Shoals Community College
- Wallace Community College
- Wallace State
Some colleges limit the number of courses seniors can take each semester for free. For instance, Bishop State only covers tuition costs for up to four credit hours per semester, and Gadsden State covers up to six. In general, seniors can only receive a tuition waiver for classes that have space available, and they can use it only once for any given course.
All 10 campuses of Maricopa Community College in Arizona allow students age 65 and up to take classes for credit at half the usual price. The discount does not cover any course fees, registration fees, or non-credit courses, and it applies only to classes that have space available. Seniors who want to take advantage of this program can simply follow the standard enrollment process, and their discount will be applied when they register.
At California State University, state residents age 60 and up can take classes for credit without paying tuition. The university also waives application, health services, and IRA fees for these students and drops student body center and health facility fees to $1 each. The section of California’s Education Code that established this program specifies that these non-paying students can only sign up for classes after all regular students have registered.
Several state universities in Colorado offer free or discounted classes for seniors, including:
- Colorado State University. The Lifelong Learner program at Colorado State allows students age 55 and up to audit classes for free as long as space is available. To request to audit a class, fill out the Lifelong Learner Class Visitation Request Form.
- University of Colorado Boulder. The Senior Auditors program at the University of Colorado Boulder is open to state residents age 55 and up. These students can audit any regular daytime class on campus for a fee of $95, or $80 for CU Boulder alumni.
- University of Denver. The Senior Citizen Audit Program at the University of Denver allows adults age 60 and above to audit undergraduate classes for a fee of $100 per course. Senior students do not receive credit for these classes, do not submit homework, and are not eligible for other student privileges, such as checking out library books.
District of Columbia
If you live in the Washington, D.C. area and are at least 65 years old, you can audit classes at Georgetown University through the Senior Citizen Auditor Program. You can choose any undergraduate-level classes with a number of 400 or lower that have space available.
To use the program, show up to the first class and ask the professor’s permission to audit it. If the professor says yes, fill out the Senior Auditor Registration Form and mail it in along with a $50 check. You will also be responsible for paying any course fees.
The University of Hawai’i at Manoa allows senior citizens to audit classes through the Na Kapuna Program, also known as the Senior Citizen Visitor Program. The program is open to state residents who are at least 60 years old and have a working email address. Participants must receive a TB skin test or chest X-ray within one year of enrollment to prove that they do not have tuberculosis.
Idaho colleges and universities offer a variety of deals for seniors. Schools with free or discounted classes include:
- Boise State University. Idaho residents age 60 and older can take classes at Boise State University for a fee of $5 per credit hour, plus a $25-per-semester registration fee. They are also responsible for any special fees, such as lab fees or private music lessons.
- College of Southern Idaho. The CSI Gold Card program allows students age 60 and older to audit classes without paying for tuition. They are still responsible for any other class fees.
- College of Western Idaho. At the College of Western Idaho, which has campuses in Boise and Nampa, students age 60 and older can take classes for credit at 50% of the normal price. The actual cost varies depending on whether they’re in-district, out-of-district, or out-of-state residents.
- Lewis-Clark State College. At Lewis-Clark State College, Idaho residents age 60 and up can take up to six credits per semester at a reduced rate. They pay $5 per course credit, plus a $20 registration fee each semester and all course fees. Seniors who wish to take more than six credits must pay the normal price for part-time or full-time students.
- North Idaho College. People at least 60 years old can audit classes at North Idaho College for a discounted rate of $25 per class plus $5 per credit hour. Seniors who wish to take courses for credit must pay the full tuition cost.
- University of Idaho. The Senior Scholar waiver at the University of Idaho allows state residents age 60 and up to take courses on a space-available basis for $5 per credit plus $20 per semester. This program also gives senior students access to the library, but it does not entitle them to other student services such as insurance or health services.
Iowa’s state universities do not offer discounts for senior citizens. However, at Simpson College, a private college in Des Moines, people age 65 and older can take one non-credit class for free each semester. Alternatively, they can take one class for credit at the amount normally charged for auditing a class, which is $375 per credit. Lab courses do not qualify for free or discounted tuition.
Tuition deals for seniors in Michigan vary from college to college. Schools that offer them include:
- Central Michigan University. At the Mt. Pleasant campus of CMU, Michigan residents age 60 and older can audit undergraduate classes for free. Space must be available, and they must get permission from the instructor.
- Kendall College of Art and Design. Senior citizens age 62 and up get a 10% discount on tuition at Kendall. The discount does not include lab or supply fees and does not apply to certain types of classes, such as metals and jewelry workshops.
- Lake Superior State University. Students at least 60 years old can audit courses at LSSU without paying tuition. They are responsible for all fees associated with each class.
- Michigan Technological University. At Michigan Tech, students age 60 and older can audit up to two courses per semester without paying tuition or student fees. They must apply through the admissions office to sign up.
- Northern Michigan University. Any applicant age 62 or older can receive free tuition for all on-campus classes at NMU. This scholarship does not cover books, fees, or off-campus or Web-based classes. To sign up, seniors must apply through the admissions office, then register for classes at the student service center, where they must provide proof of age.
- Wayne State University. Students age 60 and older receive a 75% discount on tuition at Wayne State. They must pay registration and other fees and provide proof of age.
- Western Michigan University. The Senior Citizens’ Opportunity Program in Education at Western Michigan University allows seniors 62 and older to audit one class per semester for free. They must apply to the college to use this program, but they pay no application fee.
Several Mississippi schools provide some sort of tuition benefit for seniors, including:
- Delta State University. Seniors age 60 and older can take up to 15 hours of classes per semester at all Delta State locations without paying tuition. They can either audit classes or take them for credit. They must apply as either degree-seeking or non-degree-seeking students and pay a $50 admissions fee per course.
- Hinds Community College. Students age 65 and older qualify for free tuition at Hinds. To audit classes, they must fill out an application, pay a registration fee, and buy a parking decal. To take classes for credit, they must also meet the school’s admission requirements.
- Jones County Junior College. If space is available, senior citizens over 65 years old can take courses at Jones County Junior College for free. They pay no tuition or registration fees, but they are responsible for lab fees if the course requires them.
- Mississippi State University. The Senior Citizen Tuition Waiver Program at Mississippi State University allows state residents age 60 and older to take up to two on-campus courses per semester at the Starkville or Meridian campuses or the Center for Distance Education. They can take a maximum of six hours per term or 18 hours per calendar year.
- Pearl River Community College. Students age 65 and older can apply for a tuition waiver for classes at Pearl River Community College. They must fill out an application online or at the financial aid office and provide proof of age. The discount covers registration and technology fees as well as tuition, but students are responsible for any other fees.
- University of Mississippi. The UM Lifelong Learners Program allows students age 65 and up to take one course of up to four credit hours on any UM campus each semester without paying tuition. This covers both undergraduate and graduate courses.
In addition to the colleges in the Montana State University System, several other Montana schools provide tuition waivers for seniors. They include:
- Dawson Community College. The Senior Citizen Gold Card at Dawson grants tuition waivers to seniors age 60 and up. It also gives them free admission to cultural and athletic functions at the school, with some restrictions.
- Flathead Valley Community College. There’s a senior citizen discount available for adults age 65 and up at Flathead Valley. However, the school’s website doesn’t specify how large the discount is. For details on the program, call the registration office.
- University of Montana. The Golden College Program at the University of Montana in Missoula allows Montana residents age 65 and up to take undergraduate courses tuition-free. The program covers only tuition costs, not fees. It’s not available to anyone who’s taking graduate courses or using any other kind of financial aid. This discount is also available at Helena College, another campus in the University of Montana system.
In Nebraska, tuition waivers for seniors are available at the following schools:
- Chadron State College. The Senior Citizen Tuition Waiver at Chadron State College allows adults age 65 and older to audit one class per semester for free. Classes are offered as space is available.
- College of St. Mary. At the College of St. Mary, a women’s college in Omaha, senior citizens can audit one class of up to three credit hours each semester free of charge. The college website does not specify how old you must be to qualify for this program.
- Mid-Plains Community College. Senior citizens can take classes for credit at Mid-Plains Community College for 35% of the normal tuition cost. To qualify, you must be age 62 by the time you register for classes.
- University of Nebraska. The Senior Learning Passport Program at the University of Nebraska gives seniors age 65 and up the chance to audit up to two undergraduate courses per semester on a space-available basis. A Learning Passport costs $25 and is good for one year. The program is active at the university’s Lincoln and Omaha campuses, but there’s no information about its availability at the Kearney campus.
- Western Nebraska Community College. The Gold Card Club at Western Nebraska Community College gives people age 60 and up a tuition waiver for up to six credit hours of classes per semester. It does not cover fees or textbooks.
Although Nevada has no statewide senior voucher program for college classes, there is a discount program at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. The Senior Citizens Program allows seniors age 62 and up to take classes for free during the fall and spring terms. They can also take summer classes for half the regular price. Books and course fees are not included.
Discounts for college classes for New Hampshire seniors are available at:
- Granite State College. New Hampshire residents age 65 and up can audit classes for free at Granite State College on a space-available basis. The college also offers a limited number of tuition waivers for seniors who want to take classes for credit. Students can take no more than two free classes per year and must pay their own registration and other fees.
- Lakes Region Community College. At Lakes Region Community College, state residents at least 65 years old can take classes for half-price on a space-available basis. They are responsible for Comprehensive Student Service and Academic Instruction fees.
- University of New Hampshire. The University of New Hampshire gives state residents age 65 and up free tuition for two credit-bearing classes per semester on a space-available basis. This discount applies only to students who aren’t seeking a degree. It’s valid at the university’s main campus in Durham and at the University of New Hampshire at Manchester.
In New Jersey, public colleges and universities have the option of offering free classes for senior citizens age 65 and up, either for credit or to audit. Colleges that have taken advantage of this option include:
- The College of New Jersey. At the College of New Jersey in Ewing, seniors can take classes for free only if they are actively working toward a degree. This means they must be enrolled at the school and must complete at least six semester hours toward a degree program each semester.
- Kean University. At Kean University, senior citizens can take graduate-level classes without paying for tuition or student leadership fees. They must still pay a fee of $130 per credit, but that’s less than 20% of the full price. This program is open only to those who already hold a bachelor’s degree or the equivalent.
- Montclair State University. The Senior Citizen Tuition Waiver Program at Montclair State includes both undergraduate and graduate-level courses. Students can choose to take classes either as degree-seeking or non-degree-seeking applicants. Students using the program must pay a registration fee of $40 per semester and any other student fees that apply.
- New Jersey City University. At New Jersey City University, seniors can audit classes on a space-available basis. To take part in this program, they must go to the registrar’s office and get a letter of introduction to the instructor teaching the course.
- Ramapo College of New Jersey. Seniors can either audit classes at Ramapo or take them for credit. Tuition is free, but they must pay for tuition-related fees, course fees, a Capital Improvement Fee, and a Parking Fee.
- Stockton University. Seniors can receive tuition waivers at Stockton University if they have lived in New Jersey for at least a year before enrolling. They can sign up for any class that has enough full-paying students to meet the course requirement but still has some seats available on the first day of class.
- Rowan University. The Senior Scholar Program at Rowan University allows seniors to audit classes, but not take them for credit. It applies only to classes with face-to-face instruction during the spring and fall terms that have at least three empty seats.
- Rutgers University. The Senior Citizen Audit Program at Rutgers University is open to retired New Jersey residents who are at least 62 years old. These students can audit courses for free in the spring and fall semesters at any Rutgers campus: New Brunswick, Camden, or Newark.
- William Paterson University. Seniors can audit classes at William Paterson without paying for tuition. They are responsible for all mandatory and course-related fees.
- Seton Hall University. At Seton Hall University, senior citizens can audit courses for $100 per course with no additional fees. Taking courses for credit costs $500 per course, plus university and technology fees.
Many community colleges in New Jersey also offer free or discounted classes for seniors. They include:
- Atlantic Cape Community College
- Bergen Community College
- Brookdale Community College
- County College of Morris
- Hudson County Community College
- Mercer County Community College
- Middlesex County College
- Ocean County College
- Raritan Valley Community College
- Sussex County Community College
- Union County College.
Age and residency requirements for these programs vary by school. Check out the colleges’ websites for full details.
Along with the free auditing program at state colleges, there are many private colleges in New York that offer deals for senior citizens. They include:
- Adelphi University. The Guest Scholar Program at Adelphi allows any interested visitor to audit a class for $150. However, senior citizens can do so for a discounted fee of $75 per course.
- Columbia University. Columbia’s Lifelong Learners Auditing Program is open to people age 65 and older. They can audit classes at Columbia as “silent observers” without speaking or participating. The cost is $750 per course, plus a nonrefundable $80 application fee.
- Pratt Institute. Senior citizens age 65 and up receive a 10% discount on tuition at Pratt Institute. This discount does not include fees.
Four state colleges in North Dakota allow senior citizens age 65 and older to audit classes for free:
- Bismarck State College. At Bismarck State, senior citizens can audit one class per semester without paying tuition. However, they cannot sign up until regular enrollment for full-paying students has ended.
- Dickinson State University. Tuition waivers are available for seniors to audit multiple courses each semester at Dickinson State. These students are required to do all the work for the course, even though they aren’t earning credit; if they don’t, they can be kicked out of the class.
- Minot State University. Senior citizens at Minot State can audit on-campus courses on a space-available basis. They are responsible for any course-specific fees, as well as a one-time application fee of $35.
- North Dakota State University. The program at North Dakota State University is similar to Minot State’s. However, seniors at NDSU are only allowed to audit one course per semester.
Although Oklahoma state law authorizes state-run colleges to let state residents age 65 and up audit classes for free, only some schools offer this opportunity for seniors. They include:
- Oklahoma Panhandle State University
- University of Central Oklahoma
- Carl Albert State College
- Oklahoma City Community College
Some schools place limits on how many classes seniors can audit per semester or when they can sign up. Check with the individual school for details about its program.
Several colleges in Oregon allow senior citizens age 65 and up to audit classes for free on a space-available basis. They include:
- Blue Mountain Community College
- Chemeketa Community College
- Clatsop Community College
- Klamath Community College
- Lane Community College
- Portland Community College
- Portland State University
- Southern Oregon University
- University of Oregon
- Western Oregon University
Rules for each senior auditing program differ from college to college. Some schools charge course fees, some require the consent of the instructor, and some open up their classes to seniors as young as age 62. In addition, some schools offer discounts on other types of classes for seniors. Check with the schools for details.
Pennsylvania colleges that offer deals for senior citizens include:
- Bloomsburg University. Pennsylvania residents at least 60 years old can audit classes at Bloomsburg University tuition-free on a space-available basis. Proof of age is required.
- California University of Pennsylvania. The 60+ College Advantage program at CAP allows state residents age 60 and up to either audit classes or take them for credit. Tuition is free, but students are responsible for all fees. Seniors can take up to 18 credits per semester, or 21 credits with special approval.
- Clarion University. A Senior Citizen Tuition Waiver is available at Clarion University for state residents age 62 and up. It allows them to audit classes with no tuition cost, but not to take them for credit.
- East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania. The voucher program at East Stroudsburg University is open to seniors at least 60 years old who are retired. It allows them to take up to six credits (usually two courses) per semester as “non-degree” students.
- Edinboro University of Pennsylvania. At Edinboro University, tuition waivers are available for students age 62 and up. These waivers apply to audited courses only, not courses taken for credit.
- Indiana University of Pennsylvania. Seniors can audit classes for free at IUP with the permission of the instructor. They can also get a discount on courses taken for enrichment.
- Lock Haven University of Pennsylvania. State residents age 62 and older can take one free class per semester at Lock Haven. You can only qualify if you are not employed full-time.
- Mansfield University. Tuition waivers are available for seniors to audit classes at Mansfield University. To qualify, you must be a state resident at least 62 years old and receive Social Security.
- Millersville University. The Senior Audit program at Millersville University applies only to graduate courses. It’s open to both in-state and out-of-state residents age 62 and up.
- Pennsylvania State University. Many Penn State campuses take part in the “Go-60” program, which opens up classes on campus to state residents age 60 and older. Students can take classes either to audit or for credit, but they must be retired or working less than 20 hours per week to be eligible. Some schools limit the number of credits seniors can take through this program.
- Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania. Senior citizens can get a tuition waiver at Shippensburg University for any class that has space available. They must provide proof that they are Pennsylvania residents and at least 60 years old.
- Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania. The Senior Citizen Program at Slippery Rock University is for people age 62 and up who are receiving either Social Security or some other retirement benefit. It covers tuition, but not fees, for classes taken for credit, and both tuition and fees for auditing.
Many community colleges in Pennsylvania provide tuition waivers and other perks for senior citizens, as well. These include:
- Bucks County Community College
- Community College of Allegheny County
- Community College of Philadelphia
- Lebanon Valley College
- Lehigh Carbon Community College
- Luzerne County Community College
- Montgomery County Community College
- Westmoreland County Community College
Age and residency requirements and costs vary by school. Visit the school’s website to see details about its program.
Under Texas state law, any college in the state has the option of charging a lower tuition rate to people age 55 or over. Schools can also give seniors age 65 and up the opportunity to audit up to six hours of classes per semester for free. Colleges can make their own choices about whether to offer either of these programs and how large to make the discount.
However, under a newer law passed by the Texas Legislature in 2014, schools must set a limit on how many hours of classes seniors can receive a discount for. They must also define a “satisfactory” grade point average (GPA) that students must meet to keep receiving discounts.
Several Texas colleges offer free auditing of classes for seniors 65 and older but do not offer tuition discounts for seniors taking college for credit. They include:
Texas colleges that offer tuition waivers on for-credit courses include:
- Collin College. Tuition waivers are available at Collin College for seniors 65 and older. This appears to apply for students who wish to take classes for credit or audit.
- Dallas County Community College District. All community colleges in the Dallas County District offer tuition waivers for seniors age 65 and up to take classes for credit. This includes Brookhaven College, Cedar Valley College, Eastfield College, El Centro College, Mountain View College, North Lake College, and Richland College.
- Hill College. Tuition waivers are available at Hill College for seniors 55 and older. The amount varies but can be as much as the full cost of tuition.
- Houston Community College. The Senior Citizen Exemption Program at Houston Community College gives seniors age 55 and up a discount of 50% on tuition and fees. This discount applies only to classes that have space available. Students must maintain a GPA of at least 2.0 to stay in the program. The same rules apply to seniors 65 and up who wish to audit classes for free.
- Midland College. At Midland College, degree-seeking students at least 55 years old can apply for reduced-cost tuition. Students age 65 and older do not get free tuition, but they can have fees waived.
- Navarro College. Senior citizens 65 and older can get free tuition for up to six credit hours per semester at Navarro College. This appears to apply to for-credit courses as well as audited ones.
- Texas Tech University. In addition to free auditing for seniors 65 and older, TTU claims to offer discounted classes for seniors over 55. However, it doesn’t say how much the discount is.
- University of Houston. The website of the University of Houston mentions tuition waivers for senior citizens, but it doesn’t list an amount. There’s also no information about what GPA seniors must maintain.
Washington state law 28B.15.540 allows public colleges and universities in the state to waive tuition and fees, in whole or in part, for up to two classes at a time for seniors. The program applies to state residents age 60 and older. However, colleges are not required to take part in this program. Those that do include:
- Bellevue College. Seniors can audit classes for free at Bellevue College but cannot take them for credit. They must pay $5 per course plus all other applicable fees.
- Cascadia Community College. At Cascadia Community College, seniors can either audit classes or take them for credit. The fee is $5 per quarter to audit and $10 per credit when taking classes for credit.
- Edmonds Community College. The program at Edmonds Community College allows seniors to audit classes only. There’s a charge of $5 per course, along with all other fees.
- South Seattle Community College. Seniors can receive a tuition waiver to take classes at South Seattle Community College. They can either audit classes or participate in them fully, but they cannot use them for credit toward a degree.
- University of Washington. The ACCESS program at the University of Washington allows seniors to audit classes at no charge. The classes must have space available, and the students cannot take part in class discussions, submit papers, or take tests. There is a registration fee of $5 and a technology fee of $5 per credit to use the computer labs.
- Washington State University. The tuition waiver program at Washington State University waives tuition costs for seniors in the spring and fall semesters only. Students must fill out a tuition waiver request and pay a $5 administrative fee, along with any course fees.
- Western Washington University. Seniors can have tuition waived to either audit classes or take them for credit at Western Washington University. They pay a quarterly service fee of $49.
All colleges in the University of Wisconsin System allow state residents age 60 and up to audit classes for free. (Other Wisconsin residents can audit classes for 30% of the normal tuition cost.) The classes must have space available, and the students must get permission from the instructor. Seniors who are auditing a class can switch to taking the class for credit, as long as they pay the tuition and fees before the final exam.
Other Wisconsin colleges with special discounts for seniors include:
- Gateway Technical College. The program at Gateway Technical College is similar to the University of Wisconsin’s. State residents age 60 and up can audit classes for free, provided space is available.
- Marquette University. Seniors age 62 and up can take graduate courses at Marquette University for half the normal tuition cost. The university also has an auditing program that allows anyone to audit a class for half the normal price, regardless of age. However, the two programs can’t be combined.
- Mount Mary University. The Special Student program at Mount Mary allows eligible students to take a course for $895 per credit, plus a $185 general fee. For senior citizens age 62 and up, the per-credit cost is halved.
- Silver Lake College of the Holy Family. The Lifelong Learning program at Silver Lake College allows adults at least 55 years old to audit selected undergraduate class. However, the exact cost of the program is not available online. For details, call the Ariens Family Welcome Center at 920-686-6175.
- Waukesha County Technical College. At Waukesha County Technical College, seniors age 62 and older can audit any 400-level course without paying tuition or 600-level courses for half the normal tuition rate. In both cases, they are responsible for all materials and fees.
The University of Wyoming allows state residents age 65 and over to take classes on a space-available basis at no cost. In order to take part in this program, seniors must be admitted as UW students and provide evidence of their age and residence. Students using this program do not receive any other student benefits aside from class tuition.
Some community Wisconsin colleges offer tuition waivers for seniors as well. At Laramie County Community College, seniors age 60 and up can take classes for only $10 per credit, plus all relevant course fees. The Golden Age program at Northwest College Wyoming gives Park County residents age 60 and older free tuition for up to six credit hours per semester, along with free admission to most of the college’s social, cultural and athletic events. And at Western Wyoming Community College, Lincoln County residents at least 60 years old can get a 50% discount on tuition and class charges.
University-Based Retirement Communities
If you love the idea of spending your senior years as a full-time student, a university-based retirement community (UBRC) could be a great choice for you. These are senior-only developments located on or near a university campus that give their residents access to college activities.
The term “university-based retirement community” was coined by Andrew Carle of George Mason University. In an interview with AARP, Carle explains that all UBRCs have the following traits in common:
- They’re located close to the university, ideally within one mile.
- They’re financially tied to the university.
- They offer a range of housing and care options, from independent living to assisted living.
- There are formal programs linking the school and the community.
- At least 10% of residents have some connection to the school (for instance, as alumni or former faculty members).
The perks and amenities these communities offer vary widely from one UBRC to another. UBRCs can give their residents access to college classes, as well as facilities such as the library, gym, student center, and dining halls. UBRC residents can often attend guest lectures, student performances, and sporting events on campus for free. Being part of the life of the university provides both social and intellectual stimulation.
According to Investopedia, there were about 100 UBRCs in the United States in 2014. Some of the best-known ones are The Village at Penn State, Oak Hammock at the University of Florida in Gainesville, and Holy Cross Village at Notre Dame. The Retirement Living Information Center offers a list of UBRCs across the country, sorted by state.
Continuing Education Programs
Some colleges don’t open up their regular courses to senior students and auditors, but they do offer classes just for senior citizens. For instance, more than 120 colleges and universities nationwide have Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes (OLLI), programs that provide not-for-credit classes in a variety of subjects for adults age 50 and up.
There’s at least one OLLI program in each of the 50 U.S. states, as well as the District of Columbia. The largest is Florida Atlantic University’s Lifelong Learning Institute, which offers more than 150 programs to over 24,000 seniors each year. Its upcoming classes for 2018 include “About Face: The Power of Portraits,” “Autocracy in Bloom: Moscow and Beijing,” and “The Golden Age of Broadway, Part II.”
Costs for OLLI programs vary by school. For instance, the University of Minnesota charges a flat $240 per year for all the courses and events you want. Other colleges charge by the class. For instance, Duke University has a $35 annual membership fee, plus separate fees of $10 to $90 per class.
Other colleges are not part of the Osher network, but offer their own continuing education classes for seniors. Some examples include:
- Eastern Iowa Community Colleges. At the three EICC campuses, students age 55 and up can attend a wide range of lectures and other events. Topics include gardening, history, and physical fitness, as there are a variety of tours and outings. A typical price is $22 for a lecture or $9 for a tour.
- Southwest Mississippi Community College. The Institute for Learning in Retirement at SMCC offers not-for-credit classes, workshops, and social activities for retired people and other adults age 50 and up. There’s an annual membership fee of $60, plus per-class fees that average $15 for a 10-hour class. Members can take many short-term workshops with no additional fee.
- Pace University. In New York City, seniors age 55 and up can take part in Pace University’s Active Retirement Center (PARC). Along with lectures, programs, and social activities, it gives students access to Pace’s library and computer lab. Membership costs $100 per year.
- Case Western Reserve University. The Siegal Lifelong Learning Program at Case Western offers courses one to four months long in a range of subjects, including languages, history, politics, and science. Most courses cost between $75 and $150. Annual membership costs $36 for one person or $62 for two people and gives you a discount of 15% to 20% on course fees. Courses are open to people of any age, but you have to be available for classes during the day.
- The New School. The Institute for Retired Professionals (IRP) at The New School in New York bills itself as “the blueprint for the Lifelong Learning Movement.” The IRP is a “cooperative learning program” in which retired and semi-retired people participate as both teachers and students. All IRP students must take part in at least two study groups each semester and also support the community by leading study groups, serving on committees, or helping the college in some other significant way. Membership costs $1,054 per year or $665 per semester.
This list is only an overview of which colleges offer free or discounted classes for senior citizens. Programs and prices change from year to year, so a school that offers free classes now might not have them next year. Likewise, a school that isn’t on this list might start a program for seniors next year.
The best way to find out if a college near you offers free or discounted classes for older adults is to contact the school directly. First, try visiting its website and searching for phrases such as “senior citizen” or “continuing education.”
If you can’t find anything on the website, call the registrar’s office and ask. The workers there can give you up-to-date details about any programs the school has and how much they cost. Who knows; if they get enough calls from interested seniors, it might even inspire them to start a program if they don’t have one already.
Do any schools near you offer free classes for senior citizens? Have you ever taken one?